(C. Proxmire, Ferndale 115 News, July 9, 2012)
At the beginning of each County Commission meeting, a commissioner is invited to the front to give the invocation. Often these are prayers for guidance, though sometimes commissioners may choose to give non-denominational speeches, or to simply share their hopes and wishes with the group.
Marcia Gershenson, who represents the 17th District, which includes the villages of Beverly Hills, Franklin, Bingham Farms and sections of West Bloomfield, Bloomfield and the Township of Southfield, used the opportunity at the June 7, 2012 meeting to recognize women in leadership positions, and to share her invocation with two other strong women: Barb Hankey and Suzanne Hollyer.
“I have worked with both of these women and I consider Judy Cunningham a mentor,” Gershenson said.
Cunningham was recognized that day for her recent appointment to being President of the Oakland County Bar Association, where she will serve until June 2013.
According to an Oakland County press release, “Cunningham, the first woman to serve as Oakland County corporation counsel, began working with Oakland County as a part-time summer law clerk in 1980. She joined the county full time in 1983 as deputy administrator of the Circuit Court. In 1988, she became Circuit Court administrator – a position she held until Patterson appointed her corporation counsel in 1999. She is a 1983 graduate of the Detroit College of Law.
“As corporation counsel, Cunningham oversees a staff of 11 attorneys which manages a total of about 1,250 assignments each year. More than 90% of Oakland County’s lawsuits are handled in house saving taxpayers significant legal fees that would otherwise be spent on outside counsel.
“Cunningham has been an active member of the OCBA since 1983. She was elected to its Board of Directors in 2004 and re-elected in 2007 and 2010. She was the first co-recipient of the OCBA’s Distinguished Public Servant Award in 1999 and also received its Distinguished Service Award in 1985.
“Cunningham was honored twice by Michigan Lawyers Weekly, a legal news publication. In 2008, she was among 20 attorneys in Michigan to receive MLW’s recognition of “In-House Leader in the Law.” She also was part of MLW’s “Women in the Law” ceremony for her contributions to the legal system and her mentoring efforts with young lawyers in 2010.
Cunningham, a resident of Bloomfield Hills, has two adult children: Meredith, who teaches high school Spanish in Waterford Schools; and Jacob, who is a recent graduate of Cooley Law School. Cunningham’s favorite title is that of “grandma” to her 2-year-old granddaughter, Madeline.”
Barb Hankey, who joined Gershenson for the invocation, is the Chief of Community Corrections, who works to minimize jail and prison time for non-violent offenders.
Suzanne Hollyer is Administrator for Friend of the Court, providing services to families with minors having issues with divorce, support and paternity.
Gershenson herself is the Co-Founder of Gilda’s Club/Metro Detroit/Cancer Support Community, a Board Member of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, and is a member of the Longterm Strategic Planning Committee for Beverly Hills.
In her invocation, she said “Most of us know that yesterday’s meeting was rescheduled so we could attend Judy Cunninghams swearing in as the new President of the American Bar Association.
“She is only the 7th women to have such an honor in the organizations 78years.
“So in honor of women leaders, I wanted to invite other women to share this invocation with me who have worked and had a special relationship with Ms. Cunningham.
“Women’s voices need to be at the table, the kitchen, political, government, and negotiating table.
“We bring a different voice to the debate and one that should be heard and considered.
“As women leaders we need to embrace other women and help and support them on their leadership path.”
Learn more about the Oakland County Commission on the County’s website http://www.oakgov.com/index.html.